Thursday, February 16, 2006

Hunley Submarine: Latest Carnival Attraction Publicity Ploy?

An amazing mystery, made more intriguing by efforts to assure the mystery lingers indefinitely despite great scholarship, careful material conservation, and even best sellers claiming forensic investigation.

(AP) Best-selling crime author Patricia Cornwell said Tuesday she would donate at least $500,000 to help solve the mystery of the sinking of the Confederate submarine Hunley.

Currently, the two leading theories related to the Hunley's sinking are:
+ A conning tower viewport glass was shot out in the attack, admiting a flood. WRONG
+ The crew drowned due to another cause as they tried to reach safe harbor. CORRECT (the story, of course, will be what lead to the root cause)

No glass remnants consistent with the first theory have been reported inside the Hunley at this writing. Naturally, the second theory makes a far better and more interesting "forensic spellbinder" when colored by the taut emotion of the crew's last moments (hypothetical embellishments of key facts that are being guarded as closely as a modern submarine's secrets).

What Cornwell and her publisher have done is offered the highest bid, so far, for exclusive rights to the few remaining, factual tidbits. South Carolina is intentionally dragging out the process of discovery (actually disclosure) to assure the Hunley attraction is as well publicized as possible. This means other authors and publishers will have to pay even more for their shots at a best seller. The mystery is likely to be repeatedly solved and debunked for the next 100 years, simply because the facts will be meted out in piecemeal fashion for as long as possible.

Readers may be surprised by what probably lead to Hunley's sinking, but most submariners will not. More on that story, later - much, much later, unfortunately.


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